BY CHIBUZOR EMEJOR
A coalition of civil society organizations, Voices for Food Security [VFS] has begun mobilization of farmers across the country to dissuade them from selling their votes to political office seekers in the forthcoming 2019 general elections.
VFS is a coalition of civil society organisations working in the agricultural sector in Nigeria to engage and influence policies and practices in the agricultural sector, with particular reference to the plight of small scale farmers.
At a media briefing on Wednesday in Abuja, Prof. Gbolagade Ayoola, Chairman of VFS, explained that Nigerian farmers have perennially remained a passive proportion of Nigerian society whose views and issues affecting them do not matter during elections, let alone satisfactorily addressed afterwards.
He noted that in recent times, the issue of vote-buying has assumed a dangerous dimension, whereby the farmers and rural dwellers are nakedly disenfranchised by politicians who offer pittance to them in exchange for their votes, thereby further mortgaging their conscience and dissipate their morale in politics.
To this end, he pointed that the group had resolved to reverse this ugly trend of vote-buying through vigorous advocacy of good practices in favour of farmers during elections in 2019.
According to him, “By election advocacy, we mean a process to engage politicians seeking votes from farmers to come into power in 2019, with a view to sensitizing them about issues of interest to farmers and to pre-determining their position on such issues while also obtaining their commitments in addressing them on coming to power.
“By so doing, we intend to raise the status of these issues in public discuss and bring them up to the front burner during the on-going electioneering campaigns.
“Therefore, as we represent one strong and loud voice of small-scale farmers in Nigeria, we hereby act on their behalf to advocate the need to have an issue-oriented election campaign this time, one that recognizes the important role of farmers as a large population of voters in the country.”
Ayoola further explained that his coalition would engage politicians vying for various offices on farmers’ participation in the policy process, making food security as a fundamental human right, ensuring good agricultural governance and resolution of the age-long crises between farmers and herdsmen.
Other areas of engagement, according to the Chairman of VFS, include getting the commitments of politicians to allocate not less than 10 per cent of the annual budget to agricultural sector and ensuring the provision of rural infrastructure to farmers across the country.
He also assured that VFS would establish appropriate yardsticks for monitoring the performance of successful candidates in office after 2019 elections; thereby building a template for benchmarking their performances and ensuring that they comply with the yearnings of farmers and fulfill promises made during the electioneering campaigns.
To this end, the appealed to the media to support this initiative as part of their corporate social responsibility to the society.